How to Brand Your Author Newsletter

In a previous post we said the most important reason people open emails is because of the sender. To bring that home, your readers open your email because it’s from you.

We also talked about author branding – what it is and why it matters, and what it means for your newsletter. What are your readers expecting when they see your name in their inbox? Those expectations can tell you how well you’re communicating your author brand.

In this article we’re answering the question: How can you better bring your brand – who you are as a writer – into your newsletter?

Three Ways to Brand Your Author Newsletter

Here are three ways to infuse your newsletter with your author brand:

  1. Keep it consistent with your genre, meeting reader expectations.
  2. Keep it visually consistent with your brand through design elements.
  3. Keep it consistent with the books you are writing by extending the reader experience.

Let’s dive in.

1. Book Genre and Branding Your Author Newsletter

Primarily, your newsletter needs to represent YOU. The genre you write is only part of that recipe. I’ll give some tips below, but these are only meant to bring in the flavor of your genre, not to overwhelm.

The goal here is to produce a newsletter consistent with the genre you write in, the genre your readers devour.

Genres exist because readers have different preferences. Genre makes it easier for readers to find the books they enjoy.

Understanding genre simply means understanding what those readers want – what they expect.

Genre matters when you write your book. And it matters when you send your newsletter. It’s helpful to consider genre when you’re planning your newsletter design and content, because you want it to fit your readers. You want them to feel at home when they open your email.

One easy way to do this is by highlighting books of other authors in your space – books you think your readers might also enjoy. But how else can you flavor your newsletters with the genre your readers hunger for?

Here are a three elements to consider when creating a newsletter that embraces readers in your genre.

  1. Expectations. What satisfies the readers in your genre? Happy endings? Mind-bending reality? Warm feelings? Adventure afoot? Write out those reader expectations and brainstorm ways you can pack some of these elements into your newsletter. (Just a dash will do.)
  2. Visuals. What do book covers in your genre look like? What color schemes? What fonts? What images? Get a pile of recently released books together within your genre, or pull up your category’s top sellers on Amazon (or your favorite online retailer). What do they have in common, and what words would you use to describe them? Pick two or three of those common visual elements and incorporate them into your newsletter design.
  3. Words. What type of language does your genre employ? What words belong there? (What words don’t?) How does the language flow? Is there any particular language formatting that your genre exemplifies? Think about the words you write in your books, the form they take. Is the language of your newsletter similar? Or discordant?

Recap: Genre and Branding Your Author Newsletter

There’s no need to labor over every detail with angst. The idea is to make sure the design and language of your newsletter don’t jar the readers of your genre. Keep your visuals and content consistent, whatever the medium.

You can make small changes over time, adding these flavors as you go – removing what doesn’t work, doesn’t fit. Shape your newsletter, month by month. Just like the craftsman you are.

Recap Questions

  1. What satisfies the readers in your genre?
  2. What do book covers in your genre look like?
  3. What type of language does your genre employ?

Carry these elements into your newsletter.

2. Visual Design and Branding Your Author Newsletter

What if a few simple tweaks could give you more newsletter subscribers, opens, and reads?

This isn’t a magic formula. It’s simply removing obstacles that are known to STOP people from following through. Whether that’s following through to complete your author newsletter signup, following through to open your email, or following through to read that email once they open it.

The obstacle we’re talking about is visual consistency. It is an essential part of your brand, and it’s important to keep this in mind for your newsletter strategy.

Every place you have contact with your target audience (this is called a touchpoint in marketing land), your potential reader makes a split-second Yes/No/Later decision. 

“Later” can often mean never, so it’s important to help your reader say “Yes” at every touchpoint. We’ll talk more on this in a future post.

When a potential reader picks up your book at a retail store, they make a decision: Yes, No, or Later (Not Now).

When a potential reader comes across a social media post inviting them to subscribe to your newsletter, they make a decision: Yes, No, or Later (Not Now).

At all these possible touchpoints, potential readers are making super quick decisions. Will they follow through with the action you want them to take? (Buy, subscribe, review, share?)

Anything that hinders a successful follow-through is an obstacle. The more you can eliminate obstacles, the easier it is for potential readers to say Yes to whatever you’re offering. Think of these obstacles as STOP signs. They cause your audience to hit the brakes.

Visual Inconsistency is a STOP Sign

If you go to the store and see a Coca-Cola bottle with a different logo, you STOP. This is NOT the scripty font recognized around the world.

What is this? Why is this logo different than the regular Coke logo? Is this really a Coca-Cola product? Or a knockoff? Can I trust this?

While your brand may not carry the weight of Coca-Cola, the same principle is in operation when your target audience comes across your brand. Inconsistency will make them STOP and question.

What This Means for Your Newsletter

Applying this to your newsletter, your subscriber invitations, ads, landing pages, subscriber forms, and newsletters should all be visually consistent. You are taking your potential reader by the hand, walking them through each touchpoint. At every point, you want to reassure them with a consistent visual experience. Especially online when people have their guard up.

By keeping your design elements consistent at every contact point, you are affirming, Yes, this the way. You can safely take the next step.

Am I exaggerating the impact of visual design? How important is it, really?

Remember, these Yes/No/Later decisions happen in an instant.

How many decisions do you make every day? More than you think. Every email in your inbox calls for a decision: Ignore/Delete/Read now/Flag for later. And that’s just your inbox. 

You make decisions online all day: 

  • Should you click on a Facebook post to read an article? 
  • Should you click to watch the video? 
  • Should you tap that photo to enlarge it?

How much time do you spend on each of these micro-decisions? Minutes? (You’d never get anything done!) You decide in seconds, often fractions of a second.

Your target audience is making hundreds (thousands?) of decisions each day too. It’s exhausting. We’ve all developed a filtering system for our own sanity. We don’t have time to labor over every small decision, so we simply ignore much of it. It never makes it past The Filter.

Recap: Visual Design Consistency and Branding Your Author Newsletter

We’re overwhelmed with information screaming for our attention, so we’re all looking for a reason to IGNORE. Any STOP sign will do.

Keeping your visual design consistent throughout your newsletter touchpoints can help you knock down those STOP signs and keep your readers moving forward.

3. The Reader’s Experience and Branding Your Author Newsletter

You’ve heard of elevator pitches, I’m sure. Those concise, well-targeted pitches you formulate in case you happen to bump into George Lucas on an elevator. The quick pitch that articulates the story of your story and what sets it apart from the crowd, while at the same time, describing the exact crowd that will love it.

These little pitches seem an easy thing to write – until you have to draft one. There is an art to this, to taking 500 words and distilling them to the perfect 50. I can think of 3 keys to unlocking these potent little blurbs.

  1. Knowing your story
  2. Knowing your target audience
  3. Knowing why your story matters…to your audience and to you

What This Means for Your Newsletter

What if you took this same “elevator pitch” concept and broadened it? Instead of pitching a single book (or series) and knowing the genre/category/audience for the book…and also the unique value that sets this book apart from others in the genre, what if you described who you are as a writer, who your audience is, and what sets you apart from all the other writers in your genre?

How would you articulate your work?

The “elevator pitch” has value even if you never get 2 minutes with an agent or editor (or blockbuster movie producer) because it articulates your work, your audience, and the value you bring. These are essential to know for any marketing you do.

Okay, sure. But how do you take this valuable knowledge and distill it into meaningful content for your readers?

When you sit down to create your newsletters, look for concepts that evoke emotion. You want your readers to feel something—entertained, relaxed, curious, warmed, enchanted, enriched, motivated…Something that fits your writing and resonates with your audience.

Deliver the newsletter that only you can.

If your newsletter could have been sent from Jane Women’s Fiction or T. O. O. Scary or Cozy Matilda, it’s missing the special ingredient: The Secret Sauce.

I can’t tell you what the sauce is, but I can tell you where to look for it. It’s in the last book your reader put down, the one where she wanted the story to go on. It’s in the first book that hooked your reader and made him buy the next one.

→ It’s the reader’s experience.

It’s that thing they want more of.

And gosh, if we could bottle it up and sell it to other authors to inject into their stories, we wouldn’t. We couldn’t. Because it’s ours only. It’s woven into the soul of our stories and the meaty flesh of our characters with DNA that is uniquely us.

The secret sauce identifies you as you. It identifies your books as your books.

Sometimes it’s hard to identify the sauce ourselves because we’re steeped in it. (Or we’ve come to believe we don’t have a sauce…that’s for other writers.)

Eight Meaningful Places to Find the Ingredients of Your Secret Sauce

If you aren’t sure what your secret sauce is, look here for clues:

  1. Attributes commonly ascribed to your books by reviewers and raving fans.
  2. A phrase people use over and over to describe your writing. (You can know you nailed your tagline if it feels like it was born from this.)
  3. The most meaningful feedback or praise you’ve received about your writing. (This is personal. It will tell you why your work matters to you. What was the feedback, and why did this matter so much to you?)
  4. The worlds you create.
  5. The conflicted characters you love to write.
  6. The themes you can’t leave alone.
  7. The rhythm of your words.
  8. The resonance that lingers.

How can you articulate such things? Not by formula, my friend. This comes by art. You have to get your hands into the cool and formless clay and feel it. And once you do, once you catch that elusive vision, you must work hard to capture it.

Nobody knows your secret sauce like you do. And maybe you haven’t paid much attention to it. And maybe today is a good time to start.

Recap: The Reader’s Experience and Branding Your Author Newsletter

Find your art and share it.
Bring it into all the work you do.
Extend your reader’s experience beyond the books. This is what they’re after.

If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them! Comment here or jump into the AuthCo Book Marketing Facebook group and let’s have a conversation with friends.

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